You know, they said to me, we’d love to help you fix this place up. It's become very normal these days for us to work together, you know? We get to add more homes to the Vancouver market, and you get a brand new worship space and a handsome cheque to fund your ministry. Oh my, I said to them full of admiration for the offer, but I am sorry, this parish isn't for sale! Why not!? they said to me looking a little puzzled and annoyed as to why I wouldn't want to accept such a generous offer, isn't money important to you? Because, I said, the world needs more speed bumps like this building- places that look weird and out of place- to remind us, that we are more than just our capacity to make profits for the sake of security, we are made to build the kingdom of God- not a kingdom of isolating wealth. This building represents the economy of the kingdom, something, which Luke explores for us today.
The monetary economy we live in today, would be foreign to the world of Jesus. The coins and paper we have in our wallets and pockets, used to be attached to actual sources of wealth like gold. Now, they are so divorced from direct sources of value that we can just print more money when we need too. This has lead to some incredible stories of inflation around the world, and has lead to astonishing levels of poverty and famine in places like Zimbabwe and many others. In Jesus’s time, the monetary exchange of goods was connected to our direct needs. If we only had 3 goats and 5 pumpkins to sell, we could not grow more overnight, nor could we save up the 3 goats and 5 pumpkins forever, because they were perishable. Life was dependant on the harmony of season, labour, and needs. The idea that we today are taught to expect interest on investments, to use instruments and numbers to regulate value in a self-create market system which has flipped from a place of mutual good, to a driver of mindless consumerism, feels divorced from the reality of the kingdom. We no longer live in a way where we can think objectively about what we buy, why we buy it, or who the human impact of its production, because we are constantly bombarded with images and taglines about how these products, stocks, investments, or purchases will give us the security, happiness, or ease that we should want in life. Yet, as a society, we are more lonely and isolated than ever before. We have come to a place where technology and the markets drive our lives, rather than respond and support them. Social media influencers make millions off of highlighting a new product to us, we buy disposable decorations, clothes, and products to make us feel good or connected to the larger world- but that world is mediated by screens and technology- not the kingdom and God. So what do we do, and what does this have to do with Luke or Jesus?
Money, the markets, and value creation are not evil in themselves. How we use them, can be. The world will know who you follow, not by what you say alone- but by what you do because of what you say. The world will know who we follow, because of how we act with what we have been given. And parishes like this one exist to help us focus our actions into the kingdom of God here today. We exist, as a parish, to accumulate all of the noise of the world, and through our faith, song, prayer, and deepening connection with Christ given to us in the Eucharist, we are sent out to breathe into the world a new vision for what God wants of this planet we call home. Since the dawn of time, humans of ancient and modern times have been doing this very thing, dreaming dreams, speaking prophecy with their very lives, into the world because of what and who they follow. As Walter Bruggerman suggests, the process of prophesying is about breathing in all of the waste, isolation, hate, and degradation of our world, and breath back out a vision of the kingdom of God. But what is our vision? To make disciples of all nations, building discipleship with a kingdom economy.
The greatest lie we tell ourselves as an institution is that the church has a budget. We dont, we have a ministry, which is funded by our labours- just like in Christ’s day. Yet, as we began to grow accustomed as an institution on the privileges of social acceptance, it became easier to decribe what we do because of what we have or ask only for what we need. We need a new boiler, a new roof, a new floor and lights. Then their salaries and office overhead. These, for me, are the costs of goods and services related to our ministry. We build our budgets to empower the ministry which this parish has taken up in order to build the kingdom of God here. When we pass the plate around at the offertory, this is not a moment of Christian guilt, or a moment to review the quality of my sermon, the bulletin, or the organ music. We pass the plate as a visible reminder of what it means to put our whole trust in the building of God's Kingdom through the work of this parish. We are not paying for my salary, or the lighting, or a better quality of wine at the Eucharist, we are financing the Kingdom, through the ministry of this place. But why can’t we just put a basket at the back, or move everyone to pre-authroized debits, or just use our endowments to fund all of this, so we don't have to listen to sermons about money? Because the weight of the plate helps us remember the incredible importance of our role in the development and deployment of a kingdom based economy- which starts with a parish like this and how we continue to financially influence the kingdom in our midst.
We have a long history of looking outside our walls and asking the question “why does this issue exist, and how can we help solve it?” I have been shown time and time again, that when we are given a vision of the kingdom, we give with such abundance it defies logic. It’s part of what brought us to the neighbourhood ministry, and helped us turn our eyes into the university campus to help students build community in different ways over the years. And God’s not done with us yet.
What would it look like for us to continue to take the Kingdom Economy of our parish and expand it to commit to only buy locally, our food, our clothes, our products, everything that we use here together and at home, as a witness to our desire to both support local industry and help break the cycle of disposable workers who are often mistreated and abused while they produce our cheap gifts and products around the world. What if we turned the rest of our green space into a vegetable garden, and made St. Anselm’s a hub for farmers markets in the Point Grey neighbourhood, helping ensure everyone had fair access to good, nutritious food. What if we renewed the physical plant of our parish- this building- to reflect the kingdom of God from the wiring, to the windows, to the lighting, and insulation? What if all the flora and fauna of our property reflected Musqueam horticultural traditions, a people who have been tending to this land we meet on for millennia before us. What would it look like if we did these and so many other things? We’d show the world the incredible diversity and vibrancy of what the Kingdom of God is for us and how we are ready to make it a reality financially.
The economy of the Kingdom sets us free, because it equalizes us and draws us into relationship with one another and with God every day of our lives through the choices we make. The world needs to see, know, and be invited into again into this relationship with the author of our freedom, and the economy of his Kingdom today. How will you respond with your life to the call of the kingdom economy this week?